Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs Steelers: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

1. Ravens score a special teams touchdown:

 

I’m going to speak this info existence. Every week, I think Devin Duvernay is due for a kickoff return for a touchdown. The Texas product has been close to breaking one and is statistically an elite return man. We’re talking about a Pro Bowl return specialist here. For the last week of the season, I say it’s time Duvernay scores.

The Baltimore Ravens special teams have quietly been string all season. Duvernay, who had a lengthy return in the first battle with the Steelers, is just one example of special teams excellence. I’m calling a Duvernay touchdown, but don’t rule out a fake kick leading or resulting in a score. John Harbaugh is going to be aggressive in this game, because he knows this team needs to get points anyway they can take it.

2. Baltimore Ravens say goodbye to Big Ben with 4 sacks

Terrell Suggs is rightfully the legend of the game at M&T Bank Stadium, and he’ll get the crowd hyped. While you kind of wish he could play one more game against Ben Roethlisberger, the current Ravens will get the job done. A chance to say goodbye to Ben is a chance to get as many hits on him as possible. That’s how Don Martindale is going to look at this.

You may say that with a team spread thinly on defense Wink can only be so aggressive. Here’s the thing, it may be the only path to victory. The Steelers are going to attempt what they did in Pittsburgh. They want to tire out the defense and have the dam break in the critical moments. Martindale has to blitz. He has to force the issue. Put Patrick Queen and Tyus Bowser down for a sack each. Give Justin Houston one and Chuck Clark one as well. In the spirit of Sizzle, the sacks will come. 

3. Justin Tucker will make five field goals 

Sometimes predictions are formed by following the trends. The Ravens aren’t scoring a lot of points. In their five-game skid, they averaged 22,2 points per game. Last week, Tucker hit four field goals for 12 of the 19 points the Ravens scored. The Ravens keep moving the ball down the field and collapsing in the red zone. The inability to finish drives is arguably the most costly problem for the Ravens other than injuries. It’s hard to see the Ravens becoming a touchdown scoring machine all of the sudden. The Ravens could move the ball the last time they played the Steelers, they just didn’t score when they had their chances. The Ravens will take the points they can get in this game, meaning Tucker should be a busy man. 

4. Ravens win but don’t get the help they need

Winning is just one of four things the Ravens need in this finale weekend. Ultimately they’ll leave the 1:00 pm slate of games out of the playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars have to beat the Indianapolis Colts. Half the fun of being a sports fan is getting your hopes up. That being said that’s a lot not in the Ravens’ control to ask for. I’ll give the Ravens a win in a rainy slop fest of a game, but it may have to be solely for pride, not keeping the season alive. 

And now a score: Baltimore Ravens win 22-17 

Give me five Justin Tucker field goals that I predicted and a touchdown. Give me the Ravens defense making this finale for Roethlisberger a personal matter and stepping up to the plate. If you can keep the Rams down to 20 points, you can keep this Steelers team under 20. I’ll go with a win in the finale. What the heck. But help is needed and the Ravens don’t want to know the odds. 

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens who deserve a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are 8-5 heading into a battle with the Green Bay Packers. Let’s take a glance out of the moment and have some fun. Let’s talk about the Ravens who belong in the NFL Pro Bowl.

Mark Andrews – Tight End

Mark Andrews is one of the best weapons in football. Statistically, there’s no leaving him out of the conversation. He has 75 receptions for 926 yards and six touchdowns with four games left to go. Andrews has been a matchup nightmare and he’s made some of the most important plays of the Ravens season. Andrews is the leading NFL receiver among tight ends. The only tight end all that close to him is Travis Kelce, who is 51 receptions behind Andrews.

Andrews has stepped up his game. He’s always been a good player and in 2020, he was a top-five tight end. Now, he may be the best tight end. His career highs coming into the season were 64 receptions and 852 yards. Andrews has smashed past those numbers. While he’s scored fewer touchdowns so far, that’s more of a side effect of how the Ravens are doing in the red zone in general than a knock on the former Oklahoma Sooner tight end.

Marquise Brown – Wide Receiver

Speaking of career highs, Marquise Brown has had the best year of his short NFL career. He has 70 receptions and 866 yards. Brown had a bad game against the Detroit Lions. In just about every other game he’s been rock solid. He’s averaging almost six receptions per game. He’s had three games with over 100 receiving yards. Brown has been a game-changer at times this season. The Ravens wouldn’t;t have eight wins without him.

Pat Ricard:

Is there a better fullback in the NFL? The answer is no. Ricard has proven to be more of a weapon this season, but his blocking is the main attraction to his game. In a league without many smashmouth fullbacks, Ricard is the toughest of them all.

Bradley Bozeman – Center

The Baltimore Ravens offensive line isn’t all that great this season, but most of their problems come from the offensive tackle positions. At center, Bradley Bozeman is the strongest player in the unit. Bozeman is the only reason the offensive line is somewhat functional.

If you took him out of the equation, nothing would work for the offense. Bozeman has had problems all around him and yet he’s been the most consistent presence for the offensive line. His improvement as a pass protector is really starting to shine. Bozeman has something to be proud about even if he doesn’t get the Pro Bowl nod. He’s the Ravens’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Justin Tucker – Kicker

Duh. He set the NFL record for the longest field goal to beat the Detroit Lions. He’s the most accurate kicker in NFL history and he’s having another almost flawless year. There should never be a season where Justin Tucker isn’t in the Pro Bowl. Believe it or not, though, he’s only been to the Pro Bowl four times in his career. Tucker better get his fifth Pro Bowl trip because he 100 percent deserves it. He’s the most consistent Ravens player; he may be the most consistent Ravens player ever.

Devin Duvernay – Kick Returner

Duvernay has led the way as a return specialist. One of the crazy things about his season is how close he’s been to breaking a big return for a touchdown. Nobody averages more for a punt return than Duvernay. He has six punt returns over 20 yards. He’s also one of the best kickoff returners in the NFL. The Ravens’ special teams have been a strength this season. The yards Duvernay preserves and creates by making the right decisions as a returner are crucial to Baltimore’s eight wins.

Players who have a case: Lamar Jackson, Nick Moore, Sam Koch

Lamar Jackson was the MVP frontrunner until his season started to spiral out of control. Now Jackson is hurt. Jackson had an incredible first half of the season. He led the Ravens on comebacks against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts and was arguably playing the best football of his career. If he returns from injury and starts playing like he did earlier in the season, he can salvage his Pro Bowl status.

The Ravens’ long snapper and punter have a case for the Pro Bowl. Special teams has been a strength. If Tucker and Sam Koch are both in the Pro Bowl conversation, the player who snaps them the football should be as well.

NEXT POST: State of the Baltimore Ravens: 13 thoughts after loss to Browns

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs Browns: 4 predictions and a score

The Baltimore Ravens are in first place in the AFC North. With an 8-4 record they have three more divisional battles. On Sunday they head to Ohio to take on the Cleveland Browns. Here are four predictions and a score for this very important game.

Lamar Jackson is turnover-free but sacks remain a problem:

 

Lamar Jackson has been a turnover slot machine in the last handful of weeks. He’s getting sacked a good bit as well. The Baltimore Ravens desperately need to get their quarterback back on track.

Pass protection is going to be an issue. Assuming Myles Garrett plays, the offensive line could face a bigger problem than it did last week. Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney take on Alejandro Villanueva and Tyre Phillips. A lot of things could go wrong there.

Jackson will be very cautious with the football. He’ll avoid turnovers. Being a bit gun-shy could worsen the problem with sacks. If Jackson is hesitant to take open shots down the field or to check the ball down, he’s going to get hit, way too much.

Jackson will avoid the boneheaded interceptions. He’ll cling to the ball for dear life. This will be his ultimate focus. Playing nervously at quarterback has negative symptoms though. With the offensive line facing a matchup that (at least on paper) they can’t win in pass protection, Jackson will take at least four sacks.

The defensive front keeps this a battle for the Ravens:

The Cleveland Browns may see Marlon Humphrey being out as their ticket to big plays down the field. While that may be true Kevin Stefanski and company just saw Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt shut down by this Ravens defensive front. The Browns have a highly acclaimed offensive line, though the Ravens won the battle two weeks ago.

Look for another big game from Tyus Bowser, who is crucially important in run defense. Look for Patrick Queen to string another solid performance together. Calais Campbell missed the first Browns game and the defense found a way to dominate the line of scrimmage.

Don Martindale and the Ravens defense are expected to fold without Marlon Humphrey and with a string of secondary injuries. The defensive front had three sacks and held Chubb to 40 yards last time. The Ravens’ defensive backs are a huge question mark. The front seven should have some trust and it will make this interesting.

3. Devin Duvernay makes an impact on special teams:

Devin Duvernay made a big impact against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s quietly having a year as the best return specialist in football. Last week it looked like one might break for a touchdown. He’s due for a kickoff or punt return to get him in the end zone. Look for the Texas Longhorns product to put points on the board via special teams.

Duvernay had a kickoff return for a touchdown last year against the Kansas City Chiefs. He leads the league in punt return yards per attempt. He’s a fast player who keeps coming close to a big play. This is his chance to shine. It’s his chance to make a difference in the game.

4. Rashod Bateman stays frustrated:

Much of the talk from this past week has been about Rashod Bateman’s frustration. The Ravens’ rookie wide receiver may have to stay frustrated one more week.

With Jackson trying to protect the football at any cost, he’s going to lean on his top two targets, Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown. It’s a very repetitive cycle. Jackson gets frustrated- Jackson locks on to the two guys he trusts no matter what. Bateman has looked the part and is looking at a matchup that he could win.  It should be a big day for him but the side effects of Jackson recovering from his struggles will resort to the ball not being spread around the way it should be.

And now a score: Browns win 24-21

 

This is a prediction I hope to be wrong about. The Ravens got away with four picks in the last contest with Cleveland; there’s a lot that goes the Ravens way in this matchup. Things are heading in the wrong direction for Baltimore though, and there are a lot of concerns.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: How to get the offense rolling again

Will the Ravens give Cleveland a fight? Absolutely. The calling card of John Harbaugh teams is being competitive, almost no matter what. To win in Cleveland though they have to play better than they have been. Ravens vs. Browns is almost always close now. A few big passing plays in a big spot will give Cleveland the tight victory.

 

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

How did the Baltimore Ravens become the comeback masters?

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens spent the 2020 season hearing that they couldn’t mount a comeback. Then they overcame a 10 point deficit against the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, showing that Lamar Jackson and company were capable of the feat. The offseason leading to the 2021 season was filled with questions. Could the Ravens be a more resilient team? Could they get the passing game going when they needed to? The question was simply can the Ravens beat you in multiple ways?

The 2021 Ravens have become the masters of the NFL comeback victory. They were down 35-24 against the Kansas City Chiefs and won 36-35. They trailed the Indianapolis Colts 25-9 and won 31-25 in overtime. This past Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens did it again. They came back from a 24-10 deficit to the Minnesota Vikings and won 34-31 in overtime. How did this happen?

Lamar Jackson is the start of every Baltimore Ravens comeback:

The Baltimore Ravens were forced to adapt this year. Losing their star running backs before the season even kicked off forced the Ravens to get more out of the passing game. Lamar Jackson already has 2,209 yards passing this season. In the entire 2020 season, Jackson had just 2,757 yards. He’s on pace to blow past his 2020 season, and even his MVP campaign in 2019.

Jackson has been the key to the comebacks. Against the Colts he had to light up the box score. He turned on the jets and threw for more passing yards in one game than any Ravens quarterback ever had. We’re talking 442 passing yards and 62 rushing yards. Jackson put the team on his back and put up over 500 yards of offense. How is that even possible?

Against the Chiefs, Jackson had 239 yards passing and 107 yards on the ground. Against the Vikings, Jackson had 266 yards passing and 120 on the ground. Jackson doesn’t panic, instead something kicks into his system and he turns things around. He does what ever it takes, he finds a new focus, he uses his legs to make things happen and he takes shots with his arm. This year when Jackson’s back is up against the wall he finds a higher level of play.

The entire team is sparked by Jackson. The reason Jackson should win the NFL MVP is because the Ravens have a chance to win every game and without him that wouldn’t be the case. The offense finds big plays the second Jackson wakes up and starts the comeback with a huge throw or an attack mode quarterback keeper. The defense finds it’s backbone and comes up with big stops when Jackson’s actions legitimize the Baltimore comeback attempt. You can feel it. When Jackson flips the switch, it’s a brand new team.

The emergence of a number one receiver:

One of the reasons the Baltimore passing game struggled in the past in these types of games is that there was a lack of reliability at the pass catching positions. Drops were a huge issue, espesically in the 2020 season. Outside of the one game (Vs. the Detroit Lions) the Baltimore receivers have been incredibly sure handed. Crazy touchdown grabs like Devin Duvernay‘s against the Vikings weren’t in the cards before.

Marquise Brown has become a number one receiver. It’s not an opinion, it’s a verifiable fact at this point. Brown already has 46 receptions for 682 yards. Should the Oklahoma product stay healthy, a 1,000 yard season is on the way.

Brown has had at least three receptions in every game and in the comeback missions he’s been unstoppable. Against the Chiefs he had six receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. Indianapolis got rocked by his nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings let up another nine receptions for 116 yards. This is a Tyreek Hill or Devante Adams level of performance. Baltimore has a homegrown playmaker who has come into his own.

Sure hands and a newly potent passing game:

Mark Andrews has been just as big a part of it all. This is by far the best Andrews has played (and he was already a top-tier tight end. Andrews had 11 receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. Andrews and Brown give the Ravens two big play threats at all times. Rashod Bateman has been back for three games and it’s clear that he has the big play potential as well.

When you add the sure hands of James Proche and Devin Duvernay, everything becomes possible when Lamar Jackson catches fire. You have a lot of secure places to go with the football, a lot of players for the defense to worry about, while they have to stop the best dual-threat at quarterback we may have ever seen in number eight.

It’s almost like it’s been the past few years with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, you don’t want the Ravens to have to be in attack mode. That’s where all that talent can turn things into overdrive. John Harbaugh isn’t shy about going for it on fourth down, and his aggressiveness can pay off when the Ravens are in these tough spots.

Turning on the lightswitch, flipping the script on defense:

The Ravens are very much a hit or miss team. They’re either hot or they’re cold and that applies on both sides of the football. The magic for the Ravens is that they seem to know how to flip the switch. Would it be nice for the Baltimore Ravens to be consistent? Yes. Would it be nice if they didn’t need a wake up call from time to time? Of course. That being said, the fact that they can be so resilient and can change the momentum of the game is encouraging.

Defense is a big part of achieving a come-from-behind victory. If you can’t get stops, you can’t catchup to the other team. Don Martindale has been at his best when he’s had to figure out how to clamp down on the opponent in the fourth quarter and at key spots. Against the Chiefs he found the wrinkle that forced Patrick Mahomes into turnovers. The defense tightened up against the Colts. Without a stop on a sudden change of possesion, the Baltimore defense would have been responsible for an overtime loss against the Vikings.

Calling the Ravens a good defense seems fairly irresponsible. The Ravens give up a ton of big plays. The one thing the Ravens defense has been is opportunistic. In the big moments they’ve either found a turnover or a stop they’ve needed. The loss to the Bengals was the excpetion to the rule, every other time the Ravens have been pushed this season, they’ve found a way to make things interesting.

The Bottom Line for the Baltimore Ravens:

The Baltimore Ravens are the best comeback team in the NFL this season. They’ve made it more difficult than it has to be. The thrilling victories are incredible. While the Ravens have to work on a more sustainable route to wins, they must be credited for being the cardiac birds. They can do in pressure moments. They’re never out of a game. This isn’t the same old Ravens’ team. They can find a way to win no almost no matter what.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens wise not to force it at trade deadline

The Baltimore Ravens are in first place in the AFC North. If they take care of buisness in the games they should win, Baltimore should be in the playoffs. That’s an exciting prospect for a team you can’t count out with a quarterback who has been remarkable when the odds are against him.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

7 Baltimore Ravens lessons from huge win over the Chargers

By Chris Schisler

1. The Baltimore Ravens are one of the best teams in football:

The Baltimore Ravens beat the Los Angeles Chargers. In theory, anything can happen on any given Sunday. This wasn’t a fluke though, the Ravens came in ready and rolled over the Chargers. The Ravens haven’t lost since week 1.

They’ve done this with no less than 13 players on injured reserve. They lost J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Marcus Peters. They lost L.J. Fort and have been playing without Ronnie Stanley and Nick Boyle. The Ravens have been exceeding expectations with enough adversity for two seasons. This is insanely impressive.

The Ravens came into this game needing to make a statement. They needed a win that didn’t come down to a comeback or a heart-pounding finish. They needed to beat a quality opponent in a convincing fashion. The Ravens just showed how good they can be. This was the best all-around game for the Ravens.

2. Don Martindale knows what he’s doing:

Defensive coordinator, Don Martindale held the Chargers to just one touchdown. That touchdown was basically a gift after a Ravens turnover. Justin Herbert had a lot of trouble against Martindale’s defense. The Ravens were aggressive and disrupted the timing of the Chargers’ passing game.

Herbert couldn’t rely on his first read. The Ravens knew that they couldn’t sit back and try to cover everybody. Martindale knew he had to force the issue. This was a masterfully called game and the players stepped up.

3. The Baltimore Ravens run game isn’t dead:

The Baltimore Ravens can run the ball after all. This week saw positive production from Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray. The Chargers showed a lot of respect for Lamar Jackson as a passer. It led to the run game stepping up. The run blocking was much improved and everything was a bit smoother. The Ravens rushed for 187 yards and Jackson only pitched in 51 of those yards. This offense will keep you honest and can dictate how they beat you by the poison you choose.

4. Rashod Bateman has the goods:

Rashod Bateman had a dropped pass that led to an interception. It happens. We certainly saw more positives than negatives from the rookie wide receiver. Bateman came into this game with essentially no expectations because it was week six and he’s just getting into the action. Four catches and four first downs make a nice start to your NFL career, I don’t care who you are. Bateman looked the part. After a small sample size, it’s definitely going to be exciting to see more.

5. The Baltimore Ravens have an impact play secondary:

The Ravens defense has a lot of exciting pieces. This may have been the best game that DeShon Elliott has played with the Ravens. He had three tackles, a sack, and an interception. Brandon Stephens was incredibly impressive. After his only bad game of the season, Anthony Averett played a nearly flawless game. Justin Herbert tested Marlon Humphrey and Humphrey won. Chuck Clark had a strong day as well and tipped the pass on the first third-down stop.

6. Devin Duvernay is going to be a weekly factor

Devin Duvernay made an impact on offense and on special teams. As a kick-off return specialist, he had two kickoffs for 70 yards. He started the second half with a long kickoff return. Duvernay was great on punt returns as well. He had three returns and averaged 14.7 yards per return. Add 15 rushing yards on offense and an 11-yard reception and you have a solid day for a young role player at receiver. If Duvernay continues to play with confidence, he’s going to be an underrated impact player on a weekly basis.

7. Patrick Queen may be able to turn things around

Patrick Queen has had a rough season. Before getting hurt in this game he was off to a great start in this game. Queen did return to the game and he played his best game of the season overall. With Queen, it comes down to him playing fundamentally sound football. If he reads his keys and stays out of the trash he has the athletic ability to be a big play-maker. This was a step in the right direction for the struggling linebacker.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens crush the Chargers and put the AFC on notice

There you have it. There are seven lessons from the Ravens win over the Chargers. What a week this was for Ravens Football!

Posted in Uncategorized

Ask the Nest: Answering Ravens end of the summer questions

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are almost to the regular season. There are just two more preseason games to go and it will be here before you know it. I decided to answer some questions submitted to me via Twitter. Let’s get to it Ravens fans.

@Bij_Sadoughi asks: Are Duvernay and Proche the return specialists still? Or is it time for some new blood?

Answer: I absolutely believe that Devin Duvernay will be the starting kickoff return specialist. Duvernay had one touchdown as a rookie kickoff returner and his speed always gives him a chance to go for six. All it takes is somebody to be out of position and nobody is going to catch him. Duvernay returned 21 kickoffs for 578 yards in 2020. That’s not bad at all and I don’t see any reason to switch things up.

Proche kind of fell off at punt returner last season. That’s still in question. Proche is a reliable catcher of the football and he has returning experience at SMU. The thing that Proche lacks is the speed and acceleration to burn past an entire punt team trying to get him. Does he have a good chance of winning the job? Yes. Is it a given? Nope.

Look for Tylan Wallace and maybe even Brandon Stephens to get in on the punt returning competition. They both seem like natural fits for that role. Proche is reliable, but Baltimore may be looking for more pizazz. The answer to your question is half yes, half we’ll see. The kick returner should be locked up. Punt returning is in question.

@DJ_BMORE asks: Do we keep Anthony Levine Sr. as a vet presence or start the youth movement at safety and special teams?

Answer: Let’s count defensive backs you don’t want to lose. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett, Shaun Wade, Brandon Stephens, Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott. That’s nine defensive backs right there. Both Geno Stone and Ar’Darius Washington are making strong pushes for a roster spot. That’s 11 defensive backs right there.

If we clump Stephens in at safety, and both Stone and Washington make the roster the Ravens already have five special teams players. I want to say that Levine will stay. Not having “Co-Cap’ on the roster would almost feel wrong. If there’s a year where Levine doesn’t make it, this is it. I haven’t even talked about Chris Westry, who has from a handful of accounts had a great performance throughout camp.

Assuming the Ravens keep don’t keep more than six cornerbacks and five safeties, Levine being cut actually makes a lot of sense. Levine still has a chance because he’s been with the Baltimore Ravens forever and he’s a great special teams player. In fact, if you don’t count Levine as a defensive back, but a special teams player it works better for him. He’s going to play better on special teams than a rookie who needs to be coached up.

It depends on how many players the Ravens keep extra players at. If it’s more than two or three spots where the Ravens commit to a surplus, Levine may be on his way out. Levine has been an awesome part of the team and is a veteran leader. I say this with nothing but respect for him.

@JijiNakaba asks: Do the Ravens sign Mark Andrews before the season or let him play out his rookie contract?

Answer: I know what the Ravens want to do and what they’ll probably end up doing. The Ravens want to sign Andrews to an extension. They probably won’t get it done before the season though. The Ravens’ next big deal is probably going to go to Lamar Jackson. Until the Ravens figure out how to get that deal done (a deal that may feel pressured by Josh Allen’s extension with the Buffalo Bills) everything else can fall into place.

I wouldn’t put it past the Ravens to ink Andrews while the season was underway. The Ravens surely want Andrews to be a Raven for life. That’s obvious. Jackson surely doesn’t want to lose the player he has the most chemistry with. At the end of the day though I really do think it boils down to what happens with Lamar Jackson. That deal is going to shape what the Ravens do with the rest of the roster.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Carolina Panthers: Video preseason preview

Thanks to those who asked questions. It’s a big weekend for the Baltimore Ravens. Keep it locked into PBN for everything Ravens vs. Panthers.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

2020 NFL Draft: Ranking situation for Baltimore Ravens in year 2

By Chris Schisler

Which second-year Baltimore Ravens are set up the best?

The 2020 NFL Draft gave the Baltimore Ravens a good bit of talent. They found their next star at the running back position in J.K. Dobbins. Baltimore remixed the inside linebacker position with Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. It was a solid draft class that made an impact in year one. Let’s look at year two though. Which second-year Ravens are in the best position?

1. J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins is in the best spot of all the second-year players for the Baltimore Ravens. Dobbins is the lead running back of the team that has rushed for more yards than any team since 2018. This is the right team to be a good running back on. Dobbins is in the perfect situation. He had a strong rookie showing. Gus Edwards will share the workload, and he’s the perfect fit for the offense the Baltimore Ravens operate.

Dobbins needs to increase the impact he makes as a receiver out of the backfield. That’s about the only concern you have with the Ohio State running back. This is a player who averaged six yards a carry in his rookie season. As a ball carrier, there’s very little to be desired. Dobbins gets the job done there with great power, vision, and contact balance to go along with speed.

All Dobbins has to do is catch more passes out of the backfield. If that becomes a prominent part of the Ravens’ offensive attack, Lamar Jackson will have the ultimate safety valve. This could be a security blanket in the passing game with edges that carve up opposing defenses. Dobbins is in the perfect situation and is clearly good at his job. He’s only getting better and in a more dynamic offense, he will be even more dangerous.

2. Patrick Queen

Patrick Queen is going to be on the field a lot in his second season. He has the chance to start taking a leadership role in Don Martindale’s defense. Queen is in a very similar situation as Dobbins. It’s very clear that he has the goods. Queen is an uber-athletic linebacker who can hit like a freight train. The one thing Queen needed when he came into the NFL was polishing.

Queen in year two can be a little more comfortable in the defense. There’s a little less thinking and hesitation and a little more flying around and finding flow. Queen played like a rookie linebacker in the 2020 season. That isn’t a knock on him, that was to be expected. A little more experience and Queen may be able to take the tools he has and produce an unbelievable career.

The good news for Queen is that he had moments of great production as a rookie. 106 total tackles and 66 solo tackles make for a solid start. He also had three sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown. Queen is on the right track. He’s on the expected track. If he keeps progressing he’s in a very comfortable spot.

3. Justin Madubuike

The exciting thing about Justin Madubuike is that he is such a needed second-year player. The Ravens have a lot of talent on the defensive line. Think about that talent though. It’s Derek Wolfe, Brandon Wiliams, and Calais Campbell. When healthy the starters are great but that’s the caveat.

The age of the starters requires the second wave of impact players on the defensive line. Madubuike is a young player with a high motor.

Madubuike is a player who has a chance to see an increased workload in the 2021 season. He can show himself to be a big part of the plan for the future. If Campbell does indeed retire at the end of the year, Madubuike could theoretically take his starting job. He’s a 6-3 293 pound defensive tackle with a good first step and some explosion. Things are just getting going for Madubuike.

4. Malik Harrison

Malik Harrison is going to be a really solid Ravens linebacker. He had a strong showing in his rookie season. Harrison is in a near-perfect position. He was a third-round pick who was asked to contribute on a rotational basis. It went fairly well. In fact, Harrison showed he was a more complete linebacker than many thought he was coming into the 2020 NFL Draft.

Things should stay mostly the same for Harrison in his second season. He could get more playing time in year two. The important thing to remember is that he is a solid contributor to an inside linebacker corps that is collectively as good as any in the NFL.

5. Devin Duvernay

It stands to reason that Devin Duvernay is looking at a starting job. It may not be at wide receiver after Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins were added to the offense, though he should be the kick return specialist. Duvernay has a natural feel for returning kicks and is a dangerous player in the open field. That works to his advantage.

Duvernay’s challenge is fitting himself into the offense. It’s hard to really predict what the Baltimore offense will really look like. It’s hard to figure out who’s going to be getting the increased work with an elevated number of pass attempts. Duvernay is coming off a 20 reception season. They never let him fully establish himself as a rookie receiver.

If the Ravens didn’t add so much to the wide receiver group he would be in a much more comfortable year two position. We’ve seen nothing but good from Duvernay. I think I actually conduct the Duvernay fan club train, but he’s in the middle of the pack in terms of rookie situations.

6. Broderick Washington

The Ravens need their young defensive linemen. Washington didn’t help himself by getting into a little bit of trouble off the field. It’s too early to know what to think about Washington. He hasn’t made a huge impression. While pass rush is probably never going to be his thing, becoming a serviceable space-eater and a solid understudy to Brandon Williams is on the table.

7. Ben Bredeson

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The good news is that the left guard position is still up for grabs technically. The bad news is that is really the only position Bredeson can compete for a starting job and there is a big logjam at the position. There is a lot of hype for Ben Cleveland. Ben Powers has some positive tape to build off of. Bredeson is essentially an unknown and he could get lost in the shuffle.

8. Tyre Phillips

Tyre Phillips showed the Ravens why it was so important to add to the offensive line this offseason. The Ravens may have traded Orlando Brown Jr., but their main additions of Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva, and Ben Cleveland show the Ravens aren’t into the idea of keeping the offensive line the same.

Phillips got a ton of experience in his rookie season. A lot of it wasn’t good. He’s got traits and he could be a swing tackle kind of a backup. Phillips went from a starter in year one to a player who may not even see the field in year two.

9. James Proche

It’s official. The Ravens Flock has always like James Proche more than the Ravens did. Proche didn’t get much of an opportunity in the 2020 season. Now the Ravens have added Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, and Tylan Wallace. Proche is in a very bleak year two predicament

10. Geno Stone

The Ravens have an on-and-off relationship with Stone. Let’s see if he sticks around before we get excited again for Stone. The Ravens added Ar’Darius Washington, an undrafted free agent out of TCU. It’s hard to see it all coming into fruition for Stone.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens started taking chances for star power in NFL Draft

Thanks for checking out PBN! Keep coming back for more. We have plenty of in-depth analysis for the Ravens Flock.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Special teams must be special

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are going into the 2021 season without “The Wolfpack.” Morgan Cox is no longer the long snapper for Sam Koch and Justin Tucker.

This isn’t necessarily a concern, but Nick Moore has to earn the Ravens’ piece of mind here. The job of a long snapper is to do your job so smoothly that the fans never even learn your name. There’s plenty of Ravens fans that have no clue who Moore is. That has to remain the same.

The Baltimore Ravens have to get the job done on special teams. It could be a real difference-maker for them. Close games are determined by the little things. Mistakes on special teams are costly.

Many mistakes you don’t really see. A punt returner calling a fair catch with plenty of green grass in front of him is probably giving up 10-12 yards of field position. A special teamer gets out of his lane and the opponent gets 20 more yards on a return. It’s not just missed kicks, bad snaps, and fumbles that hurt you when you don’t have special teams that are special.

Things to think about:

The first issue is life without Morgan Cox. That will most likely be a seamless transition. The Ravens wouldn’t make the change if they weren’t confident in Moore. Still, Koch was really used to handling one person’s snaps for a long time. I’m not staying up at night worried about the Ravens long snapper, but I’m not taking it for granted either.

The Ravens are also without Chris Moore. Now, Moore was quite frankly a bad wide receiver. That said he was a stud on special teams. He was a gunner on punt team. He lined up outside, turned on the jets, and made plays down the field. Moore was also handy for fake punts (It’s about the only passes he caught, or at least it feels like it).

The Ravens may want to figure out the punt returner job. The one thing we do know is that Devin Duvernay is the best option at kickoff returner. If Duvernay gets an increased workload in the offense, having somebody else do punt returns is a good idea.

As a kickoff return specialist, Duvernay got the job done. Duvernay averaged 27.5 yards a return and scored a touchdown. Duvernay finished 10th in the NFL for kickoff return yards. There should be no competition here. Duvernay did that in his rookie season. He’s only going to get better and it’s important to remember that he had only 21 kickoff return attempts.

The Ravens get a special teams boost from Justin Tucker being the greatest kicker of all time. Statistically, there has never been a more reliable kicker in the NFL. Sam Koch is the longest-tenured Ravens player. He’s been the punter in Baltimore since Brian Billick was the head coach. That’s a fact that is almost hard to believe.

The Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

The boost the Ravens should get from their specialists is substantial. If the Ravens can fill the units around these specialists with strong play, the special teams could be a great advantage for Baltimore. Strong special teams will add up over the season. When it’s going right, you don’t always realize how much it matters.

The Ravens have a very stacked roster. This is exactly what every special teams coordinator wants to see. The back-end of the roster makes it largely on special teams. Chris Horton, the Ravens special teams coordinator has some talented players to put on his unit.

NEXT POST: Lamar Jackson: 3 Common misconceptions about the MVP quarterback

The Ravens have a chance to be one of the best teams in the NFL. Special teams have to live up to the talent on this roster for the Ravens to win it all. It’s not something to overlook when you’re getting ready for the season.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens X-Factors for 2021 season

By Ashley Anderson

Each year, a handful of key players have a tremendous impact on their team’s success. Some are free-agent additions or draft picks while others are returning from injuries. Without further ado, here are the Baltimore Ravens’ x-factors heading into 2021.

Baltimore Ravens Offense – Nick Boyle

It is tempting to take first-round pick Rashod Bateman, or even second year man J.K. Dobbins here, do but Nick Boyle is the guy to watch. Boyle is easily the best blocking tight end in Baltimore, and possibly the league at large. Sadly, his 2020 campaign was cut short due to a devastating leg injury. However, the Baltimore Ravens feel so strongly about him that they re-signed him to a two-year, $23 million extension through 2023.

Health is the biggest question mark for Boyle after suffering his first major injury. Coach Harbaugh has gone on record saying he believes Boyle will be good to go by training camp. Undoubtedly, his return would be a huge boon for Lamar Jackson. Not only will Boyle be an additional strength along a revamped offensive line, he is often overlooked as a receiver.

In nine games last year, he caught 14 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers do not jump off the page, but it was the seventh highest total on a team that does not pass often. Considering the steep drop-off in play when the Ravens were forced to turn to Luke Willson, Eric Tomlinson, and Sean Culkin, Boyle’s importance cannot be overstated.

Until he is back on the field, everyone will wait with bated breath to see how Boyle fairs. When healthy, he is a critical component for Baltimore’s offense. With no competition for the starting tight end role opposite Mark Andrews, Boyle could be in store for a career year if fully healed.

Baltimore Ravens Defense – Justin Madubuike

On a defense loaded with talent from back to front, there are a number of players who could potentially be x-factors in 2021. That said, the nod here goes to Justin Madubuike. Despite a rookie year that was significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and a leg injury, Madubuike improved towards the end of 2020.

Playing in ten games with three starts, Madubuike notched 11 solo tackles and a sack. He steadily improved throughout the year with his best game arguably coming in Week 14 against the Cleveland Browns. He recorded three total tackles in that matchup and was given a 90.4 grade by Pro Football Focus.

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Entering his second year, the Ravens hope the 6-foot-3, 293 pound defensive tackle from Texas A&M can benefit from a more normal off-season. While Baltimore added outside linebacker Odafe Oweh and defensive end Daelin Hayes in the NFL Draft, it is worth noting they did not select any interior defensive linemen. With Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell both set to hit free agency in 2022, Madubuike could soon be a crucial starter.

In an area lacking depth, Madubuike’s value is sky-high heading into the 2021 season. If he can help create interior pressure and snag a handful of sacks, it will significantly elevate the defensive line. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale will certainly find creative ways to get the young DT more involved.

Baltimore Ravens Special Teams – Nick Moore

The Ravens stunned their fan base this off-season when they parted ways with veteran long snapper Morgan Cox. As part of the famed Wolf Pack along with Sam Koch and Justin Tucker, Cox appeared almost untouchable. However, Baltimore opted to get younger and cheaper at the position, hitching their fate to Nick Moore.

The Ravens called Moore up from their practice squad in Week 12 last year when Cox was on the Covid-19 list. From the naked eye, there did not appear to be a significant drop-off in production. As such, Baltimore was willing to part ways with a stalwart who held down the position for 11 years.

Given the importance of the Ravens kicking game and the bond shared by the Wolfpack, Moore must be on point. If he botches snaps, or the timing between he, Koch, and Tucker is off, fans will inevitably question the release of Cox. However, should he play at a high level and the cost savings allows for more free agent signings, all will be well. For Moore, the less he is talked about the better.

Honorable Mentions

Offense – Sammy Watkins

Watkins was the wide receiver the Ravens settled for when other free agents did not pan out. Known for being injury prone, it is easy to forget the impact Watkins had on Kansas City’s Super Bowl run. If he can help keep defenses honest on the outside and stay relatively healthy, Baltimore’s passing game could be unrecognizable from last year.

Defense – Patrick Queen

Any time the Ravens draft a linebacker in the first round, expectations are through the roof. Queen was no exception to this despite being a one-year starter at LSU. Though he had some gaffes particularly in the passing game, his rookie year was far from typical. Queen still finished second on the team with 66 tackles, and he recorded three sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. If he can take the next step in his development, Queen will be a wrecking ball in the middle of the defense.

Special Teams – Devin Duvernay

Last season, Devin Duvernay put on a show returning kickoffs. His first career touchdown came on a 93-yard kickoff return versus Kansas City, and he eventually overtook James Proche on punt return duties. The Ravens expect to get Duvernay more involved on offense, but he is still the leading kick returner.

NEXT POST: Rashod Bateman: Baltimore Ravens rookie scouting report

Few things can spark a team like an excellent kick return, and Baltimore has seen some of the best. If Duvernay can make a splash like Jermaine Lewis or Jacoby Jones, he figures to be among the league leaders this year.